The Ashes

Published on December 19th, 2017 | by Suraj Choudhari

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England’s new problem

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Prior to the start of the series, England’s predicament was to find Alastair Cook’s co-star at the top, a reliable No. 3, and a steady middle-order batsman along with an additional seamer. Of curse, Ben Stokes absence was massive, but that just cannot be the excuse for England’s terrible run in the series so far. Australia brutally exposed their weaknesses and most of their established seniors have had a torrid time in the series so far.

Australia regained the Urn with three wins on a trot, and a whitewash now looks imminent. They also took a lead in terms of a number of series win (33 series win) till date with this series victory. English skipper Joe Root did accept they were outplayed by the hosts in all three games.

At times, a team’s concern can turn into its strength and vice-versa. One wouldn’t be wrong in saying, that England’s run in three games so far corroborates the belief. Players who were supposed to do well, have had a terrible run so far while the inexperienced crop have done reasonably well to justify their selection.

Let’s introspect their performance one after the other. England’s most prolific and experienced Test batsman Cook was expected to set an example at the top and get the difficult runs against the new ball. Instead, his early dismissals only exposed the middle-order early and put pressure on his side. He was instrumental in the 2010-11 tour Down Under, scoring 766 runs, but failed to replicate his magic once again.

The southpaw’s poor form has been one of the key reasons behind England’s downfall. Cook has been getting solid starts at the top and has a knack of scoring daddy hundreds, but his failure to do so in this series hampered England’s run. With just 83 runs in six innings and not even a single 50, Cook’s downfall is evident and now a major concern for England in the long run.

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Skipper Joe Root is also England’s best player on this tour but didn’t live up to the expectations. A lot of team’s success depends on the way Root fares. Perhaps, the burden of captaincy in this highly intense tour got the better of him. Root often floundered after getting solid starts. Hopefully, he rediscovers his lost mojo in the final leg of the series and ends the tour on a high. Root averages 29.33 in six innings with 176 runs under his belt, which is certainly not the standard he sets for himself.

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Another massive upset for the tourists was the shoddy form of Moeen Ali. His run with the ball as well as with the bat was quite ordinary. For a while now, Ali has been getting those crucial runs in the lower middle-order at a brisk rate. He is also the only specialist spinner in the attack, but didn’t make any impact with the ball whatsoever. In this series, Ali has garnered just 116 runs at 19.33 and three wickets in five innings. Nathan Lyon picked 14 wickets in comparison to Ali’s three, which speaks the kind of impact that was missing in England’s dugout.

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Stuart Broad, on the other hand, bagged just five wickets in three games at an awful average of 61.80. He also recorded his worst Test numbers at Perth, when he remained wicketless after conceding 142 runs in the first innings. Comparatively, James Anderson did well, but not enough to win England a game. This pair has a reputation of running through batting line-ups, and England wanted them to do consistently in this series in order to win.

Anderson scalped 12 wickets at 25.83 along with a fifer at Adelaide, which also gave England an outside chance to win the game. But a lot more was expected from the ‘King oSwing’. He is lovely to watch when the conditions assist swing bowling, but Australia was always going to be a tough nut to crack. Mitchell Starc led the Australian pace attack with an example, picking 19 wickets while Anderson was a tad behind in this race.

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The likes of Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Dawid Malan and Craig Overton did reasonably well. Although Stoneman’s numbers may not be appealing, but he showed nerves of steel against the pumped Australian bowlers. An average of just over 32 may not be staggering, but the fact that he is the third highest run-scorer for England in the series speaks about the magnitude of his innings’. He got starts but didn’t convert, something which he will be looking to work on in the remainder of the series.

James Vince played two crucial innings and was unlucky to have been run out in Brisbane, which possibly changed the course of England’s innings. Too early to comment though, but England can see signs of a reliable No. 3 in Vince. Overton, on the other hand, was awe-inspiring. He showed enormous mental strength in bowling with a cracked rib in Perth and gave a testament to his tough character. In two games, Overton had six wickets in his basket and looks a bowler with great potential.

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Dawid Malan has been outstanding with the bat and is also the leading run-scorer for England and second highest overall. Malan stood his ground and played with immense confidence amid all the batting collapses. Malan has gradually established himself into a dependent middle-order batsman and has done well to make his chances count in the series.

With two more games to go, one can expect England to come out hard as they have nothing to lose with the series being already surrendered. For now, it is clearly evident that players who were supposed to fire with all cylinders failed to do so, which didn’t help England achieve fruitful results.

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About the Author

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Suraj Choudhari is a freelance sports journalist. He is an avid follower of the game and played the sport at club level. With a radical understanding about the subtle nuances and intricacies of cricket, he tries to express it through paper and pen.



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